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This is Serbia Calling

‘Welcome to the surreal life. A city where everything is permitted and nothing is permitted… where everything appears normal but nothing is as it seems. Welcome to Belgrade, city of chaos.’ So begins Matthew Collin’s fast-paced and engaging narrative of Belgrade’s descent from a vibrant and progressive central European city with a thriving club culture, to a paranoid and introspective place of survivalist capitalism run by gangsters and psychotics.

Central to this history of a decade of repression and war, riots and NATO bombing, is the story of the radio station B92, which grew from a shambolic student station to one of the focal points of resistance to the regime. Under the inspired leadership of Veran Matiç, B92’s anarchic mix of rock music, political reports and satirical stunts survived raids, censorship and even the wholesale confiscation of equipment and premises to continue broadcasting. The station’s endurance against all the odds and its grimly humorous determination to dance on the edge of the volcano gave the lie to the regime’s xenophobic propaganda. B92 helped a ‘lost generation’ find its voice and, in the darkest times, kept open a window to a more just way of life.

There are many books analyzing Miloseviç’s shrunken and thuggish empire but few have reported so vividly from the heart of the Serbian people’s nightmarish journey of alternating hope and despair, accommodation and resistance, that led to the day in October 2000 when they rid themselves of the demagogue and could finally proclaim the truth of their slogan: ‘He is finished!’


New Internationalist issue 335 magazine cover This article is from the June 2001 issue of New Internationalist.
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